5 Ways to Avoid HIPAA Violations when Blogging [Plus Infographic]

This is a guest post by Natalie Hunter. If you would like to submit a guest article, please check out our guest post guidelines.

The medical profession is booming with bloggers, and blogging has gained a popularity like ER television shows. Medical professionals find catharsis through blogging, and readers find a wealth of interesting subject matter on the human condition.

Yet before you take to blogging or other forms of social media to talk about your job, you should keep a few sensible precautions in mind. Many health care professionals have gotten themselves into a great deal of trouble by forgetting that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) also informs what they do online, so here are some tips to get blogging while keeping your job and keeping your patients happy.

1. Know Your Policies

If you work for a covered entity, then you should already have a clear understanding of your duties to your patients. Before you begin blogging, ask around at work to see if your place of employment has any written policies governing what you can and cannot disclose in cyberspace. If your employer has no such policy in place, considering starting movement to create one. Laying down a few clear, sensible guidelines is a proactive approach that everyone can appreciate.

2. If You Feel You Must Blog About a Particular Patient, Obtain Written Permission

If you encounter a patient whose sobering or inspiring story you believe just might have a huge impact on others, then you should speak openly with him or her about your desire to share their story. This assumes that you have established a solid rapport with this patient. Obtain written permission bearing the patient’s signature before you blog about that patient’s experience.

3. Blog in Broad Terms

You can discuss the particularities of certain conditions, write about your approach to various treatments and even comment on current research. None of these constitutes a violation of a patient’s privacy rights. But avoid being overly specific: make a conglomerate patient from several accounts if you must, but remember that readers are resourceful and can figure out if you are talking about them specifically.

4. Use Your Real Name on Your Blog

The Internet lets people do things anonymously, but blogs from medical professionals should not follow this trend. With your name out there, you are more likely to be responsible about the things you post.

5. Don’t Broadcast Things that Shouldn’t Be Broadcast

Did you ever hear the advice about not doing something you wouldn’t want to see printed in the newspaper? That adage holds true for the social media age. Before posting a blog entry, consider whether you’d feel comfortable reading it aloud in a public place. Is it appropriate for anyone’s consumption or would it embarrass the patient?

Whether a nurse, internist, doctor or volunteer, it is part of your duty to protect the privacy of your patients. This doesn’t mean that you should never blog about matters related to your job, but rather that patient confidentiality should be kept in mind. What are some other ways you can ensure compliance with HIPAA and blog?

Natalie Hunter grew up wanting to be a teacher, and is addicted to learning and research. She is fascinated by the different methodologies for education at large today,and particularly by the advent of online schools.

Bonus Infographic:

The High Cost of HIPAA Violations

Featured By: OSHA Safety Training